"The hormones in oral contraceptives work at interfering with the root cause of acne, which is the production of excess oil," Dr. Schultz said. Androgens — male hormones — are what stimulate oil production, so taking estrogen-based contraceptives works to quell this excess sebum. Because of that, this option works great at treating trickier, noninflammatory acne.
The first birth control pill that was approved to treat acne was Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Other main choices are Yasmin and Yaz. (When a birth control is "approved," it means that companies have spent the time and money to set up pricey clinical tests to prove their claims.) "Everybody who makes a birth control isn't necessarily interested in capturing the acne market, so they may not spend hundreds and thousand of dollars to do the test," said Dr. Schultz.
The only type of contraceptive pills that work to treat hormones are combination estrogen and progesterone options. The final verdict: "The pill has a much more varied effect on a person's body and system than other types of acne medications," he said. "But if you're going to take a birth control pill to not get pregnant, we may as well treat your acne at the same time."